Cinderella #275: The She Bear (Basile)
|Who wears short-shorts?|
SHE wears short-shorts!
Once upon a time,there lived "a king of Roughrock, whose wife, dying in her prime", begs her husband never to marry again. He agrees not to, but she is not satisfied, and insists that she "will pursue him, even into the next world", to avenge him if he betrays her. He swears that he won't, and she dies. But before long he is preoccupied with contemplating his future life "with his only daughter, and the need of an heir for the throne", and breaks his promise. He proclaims that "all the women in the world are to assemble for the beauty test". He plans to select a second wife from among them. Yet when he has seen the lot of them, and fault with each and every one, he remembers one last young woman who did not answer his summons. That is his own daughter, Preciosa, and he now summons her. Telling her of his intent to marry her, and finding her repelled by the very idea, he bellows with rage at the girl. She flees. On her way back to her chambers, she encounters an old woman. It is a lady she knows from past alms she has given, and now the old one offers to help. She gives the girl "a little chip, which she is to put into her mouth, and it will instantly turn her into a bear. Then she is to rush away into the forest, for her father will not try to detain her." When she wants to revert to human form, says the old lady, she has only to take the chip out of her mouth. The princess thanks her by giving her "bread and meat", and she will be a woman once more. So the next night, when her father surprises her at a ball by announcing to all that he is going to marry her, she pops the chip in, and POOF! She is a bear! The king is "so much alarmed that he hides under the clothes and dares not look out until morning. Meanwhile, his hirsute daughter has really gone wild: she is living as a bear in the woods. And it happens that, one day "the king of Swiftwater rides by," and is horrified to spy the wild bear. But when he slows his horse, the bear approaches him as a dog would, and begs to be petted. So he leads it back to his palace, and arranges to have the bear housed in his private garden. So it is that, one day, his son, the prince, looks out the window and sees the bear. But she is in human form, having taken the chip out of her mouth. She is "combing her golden locks" and the king is instantly smitten. But then she puts the chip back in, and becomes a bear again. And he cries out in despair, and the Queen, believing the beat to be attacking her son, orders the servants to try to kill it. One servant takes pity on the bear, and volunteers to lead it to its death. Then he secretly sets it free in the forest. Meanwhile the prince has fallen ill. Nothing, it seems will restore his health, and his mother begs him to tell her what she can do. That is when he demands the company of the bear. The Queen "thinks he has lost his reason" and sends for the animal, just to coddle him. And when the bear arrives, she immediately "feels his pulse with her paw", which the Queen finds hilarious. Then the prince says, "Won't you cook for me, feed me, and tend me, Little Bear?" She nods, yes. Then she cooks "some fowl" and feeds it to him. Gradually, he regains his strength. There comes a day when he can sit up. That is when he tells his mother of his love for the bear. He insists that he can never recover fully unless he kisses the bear. His mother, seeing few options, agrees. And when the bear and the prince do kiss, the chip once again falls out, and the bear reverts to human form. Of course the Queen is delighted at this turn of events, and encourages the young lady to tell her story, and is "delighted" for the maiden to marry her son.
From: Cox, M.R (1893/2011 p. 161
Notes: I really love this story for its uniqueness, in that the girl actually turns into a bear! Bears are not sexy, passive animals. They are powerful, and primal as well. Images of Little Bear, (who made Birthday Soup for himself and his friends, because he though that his Mother Bear had forgotten his birthday), and Sis from the Berenstein Bears fill my mind. Maybe Frances, the Badger is a comparison? You gotta respect a prince who is not afraid of a little body hair!